The Tide Jewels for orchestra
In Japanese mythology, the tide jewels control the motions of the sea. Often depicted as two pearls, the kanju (干珠) controls the ebb-tide, and the manju (満珠) controls the flow-tide. The jewels appear in various legends recorded as early as the Nara period (710-794 CE.) The fable of Tamatori-hime, the “Princess Jewel Taker,” served as a popular subject for Ukiyo-e artists such as Utagawa Kuniyoshi. In this story, Fujiwara no Fuhito of the powerful Fujiwara clan embarks on a journey to recover the tide jewels, which were stolen by the dragon god of the sea, Ryūjin. During his travels, he marries a modest shell diver, Tamatori, who bears him a son. Out of love for Fuhito, Tamatori dives down to Ryūjin’s undersea palace, where she lulls the dragon and his cephalopod guards to sleep with her music. When Tamatori recovers the tide jewels, the creatures awaken and pursue her. She cuts open her breast to hide the tide jewels, and the blood-clouded water aids her escape. The princess dies from her wound after safely delivering the tide jewels back to her family.
The Tide Jewels conveys an ebb and flow of musical energy. Washes of contrapuntal motion give way to suspended musical planes. Hollow textures accrue density, eventually yielding to their growing musical gravity. Yet a musical representation of ebb and flow cannot be one-dimensional. The tides participate in a complex interaction of simultaneous currents, moving at different speeds and with different forces. Therefore, the contrapuntal lines of my piece often move at different temporal rates. Flutes, clarinets, and bassoons whip with fleeting wind-like surface wavelets, while oboes, horns, and violins participate in a series of upwellings and downwellings. The vibraphone, harp, celesta, and muted trumpets capture an ever-changing reflection of light, while the violas, cellos, and double basses groan in an undertow.
Seattle Symphony Orchestra
Shizuo Z Kuwahara, conductor
Benaroya Hall, Seattle WA
May 12, 2017
Indiana University Concert Orchestra
David Dzubay, conductor
Jacobs School of Music, Bloomington, IN
December 6, 2017